Dixie State University baseball is set to take the plate for the 2016 season.
Coming off two consecutive Pacific West Conference championships, the expectations are high with this year’s team and returning PacWest coach of the year, Chris Pfatenhauer, knows it.
“We know there’s a lot of pressure after going back-to-back in the PacWest, but we’re just taking it one day at a time and not looking too far down the road right now.”
A lot of the core players off of the 2015 conference championship team are returning, along with plenty of new talent.
“We’ve got a lot of our core guys returning, but we also have some new faces that I expect to make an immediate impact,” Pfatenhauer said.
The Storm will return their all-conference middle-infield with senior Tanner Morache and junior Drew McLaughlin.
In addition, numerous contributors return to the mound from last year with sophomores Dylan File and Aaron Pope, and seniors Jeremy Alderman and Kolton Brost.
File went 5-1 as a starter last season while accumulating the lowest ERA among DSU starters at 2.95, earning him PacWest Freshman of the Year honors.
The top bats back in action for the Storm are Morache, McLaughlin and junior outfielder Miles Bice.
Morache topped the DSU charts by batting a .385 and registering at least one hit in 38 of 48 games.
McLaughlin hit .326 with 42 runs scored, 22 RBIs, and was among the best in the country with 20 sacrifice bunts. He boasted a .963 fielding percentage with just six total errors in 2015.
Bice batted .280 on 75 at-bats in 2015, garnering a .368 on-base percentage, which is second to Morache for returning players.
Along with the players coming back for more are more newcomers than ever for DSU: nine freshmen, four junior college transfers and two Division I transfers.
“Every offseason presents different challenges,” said Morache, an integrated studies major from Surrey, Canada. “With so many new players, it’s tough to get everyone to buy into what we do here at Dixie State, but I was really impressed with every new player that entered the program.”
McLaughlin, a criminal justice major from Scottsdale, Arizona, said that he knows the expectations are high, but he believes this new-look team has what it takes.
“The offseason went really well,” McLaughlin said. “A lot of new guys came in and have all meshed really well with the returners. We’ve worked hard and expect to repeat as PacWest champs.”
The Storm will host their annual kickoff weekend Jan. 29-30 before their season debut, a series against Cal State University, San Bernardino at Bruce Hurst Field beginning Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.
“We’ve been having full practices for about two weeks now,” Pfatenhauer said. “We’re getting better and better every day and we’re really starting to get into a groove. I like what I’m seeing from this team.”